Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Different Types of Drug Tests

February 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Drug Tests

Different Types of Drug Tests


Different Types of Drug Tests

Drug testing is the analysis of a biological specimen like urine, blood, hair, or saliva to determine the presence of drugs or their metabolites.  Drug tests are generally used to detect illegal drugs or performance enhancing steroids in professional sports. Depending on the specimen used, different types of drug tests vary in accuracy.

Different Types of Drug Tests: Hair

Because your hair grows, certain drugs can be detected for longer periods historically, but typically only for heavy-duty and continuous use. Drug testing on hair can detect drug use for up to 3 months prior to the test.  Hair testing is less invasive than other types of drug testing but it may not detect recent drug use. Some agencies prefer hair testing because it’s harder to tamper with the specimen.

Different Types of Drug Tests: Saliva

Saliva testing is pretty inexpensive and non-invasive, but it can only detect recent drug use. Saliva drug testing can generally detect use during the previous few hours to 1-2 days. Saliva drug testing is poorly sensitive to THC (the active metabolite from marijuana) and detection times can vary considerably based on the cutoffs used. If the test uses higher cutoffs, meaning more of the drug needs to be present for a positive result, the drug test can only detect use in the previous couple of hours before the test.

Different Types of Drug Tests: Blood

Blood drug tests determine whether or not the drug is in the system at a particular time. These types of tests are considered to be the most accurate way of telling if a person is intoxicated. Blood drug testing is not used very often, however, because they are very expensive and trained medical personnel to administer them. Often, blood drug testing is used in hospitals, to determine if a person is intoxicated (i.e. after a motor vehicle collision).

Different Types of Drug Tests: Urine

Urine drug tests are by far the most widely used. Urine drug testing is less invasive than blood drug testing, typically the least expensive, and can detect infrequent or recent single use. The problem with urine drug testing is that the accuracy can vary widely depending on the manufacturer and it is possible to tamper with the specimen. The internet is flooded with ads for products that claim to be able to fool a urine drug test. While the majority of the products don’t work, a few will successfully fool urine drug tests or produce inconclusive results.

Different Types of Drug Tests: Retention times

The retention time for different drugs varies depending on the drug. The following is a list of the urine retention times for the most commonly used drugs.

  • Alcohol Drug Tests – Alcohol can be detected in urine for 6-24 hours. However, if the drug test measures EtG, a metabolite of alcohol, alcohol use can be detected for up to 80 hours
  • Amphetamine Drug Tests – Amphetamines (except methamphetamine) can be detected for 1-5 days after use.
  • Methamphetamine Drug Tests -Methamphetamine can be detected for 1-3 days.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy) Drug Tests – MDMA can be detected for 72 hours after use.
  • Benzodiazepine Drug Tests – Benzodiazepines used for a short period of time are detectable up to 7 days after use. When benzodiazepines are used chronically they are detectable for 4-6 weeks.
  • Cannabis Drug Tests – Infrequent cannabis users: 3-4 Days; Heavy users: 10 days; Chronic users and/or users with high body fat: 30 days or more.
  • Cocaine Drug Tests – Cocaine can be detected for 2-5 days.
  • Opiate Drug Tests –  (Heroin, Codeine, Morphine, etc.)- Opiates can be detected for 2-4 days after use.


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